14 Things You Didn’t Realize You Could Do to Pay off Debt

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When the phrase “It’s fun to” comes up in conversation, it’s probably not followed by “pay off credit card debt.”

Paying off debt is associated with living under a rock, eating ramen noodles and cutting the bottom off your toothpaste tube to get the last bit — none of which are very “fun.”

But here’s the thing: Paying off debt doesn’t have to be boring. It doesn’t even mean reverting to listening to concerts from outside the venue and eating your friend’s leftovers from your favorite restaurant.  

Here’s How to Pay off Credit Card Debt and Still Have a Life

Achieving freedom from debt just means getting creative with the resources available to you. And we love getting creative. Here are some clever ways to pay off your credit card debt without giving up fun.

1. Figure out Exactly What You Owe

James Cooper poses at Perry Learning Center in Jonesboro, GA
Matt Odom for The Penny Hoarder

To pay off all your debt, you have to know how much you owe.

Um, duh?

Seriously though, when’s the last time you looked at all your debts and their interest rates to devise a payoff plan?

That’s what I thought.

A really easy way to do this is to get a “credit report card” from Credit Sesame.

Credit Sesame is like your favorite teacher from high school — without the pop quizzes.

It gives you a free credit score, plus lays out your credit history so you can see exactly how much money you owe and to whom. It even tells you your monthly payments and interest rate, as well as which debts (if any) are in collections.

And you don’t have to stay home to do it. The Credit Sesame app lets you keep track of your credit score and ways to improve it — on the go!

For example, it might recommend a mortgage lender, credit card or debt refinancing, based on your needs and chances of being approved.

James Cooper, a motivational speaker, raised his credit score 277 points using Credit Sesame. Now he talks to high school students about the importance of having good credit and uses what he’s learned through Credit Sesame as a blueprint for his lessons.

“We want to touch the Z Generation,” Cooper says “We’re not in the business of fixing credit. We want to get to you before you have to fix your credit.”

2. Get a Lower Interest Rate

man using phone and checking credit card
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A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. If you’re in that boat, consolidation and refinancing might be worth a look.

A good resource is consumer financial technology platform Even Financial, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.

Even searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. Its platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.

3. Get Paid for Getting the Next Round on Your Night out

Kelsey Buxton, Stamatios Kapous, and Justin Morrison head to a happy hour in the downtown area of St Petersburg.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

We want you to have fun — but if you’re not careful, it’s easy to blow your entire beer budget in one weekend — after which you’ll be stuck drinking $3 wine at home by yourself while your coworkers hit up happy hour.

Luckily, there’s a way to earn cash back on alcohol.

Yeah, seriously.

Ibotta is an easy-to-use cash-back app that’s partnered with more than 50 retailers offering deals on many of your favorite brands.

The app features both liquor store deals and cash back on drinks from any restaurant or bar.

We’ve seen deals like $5 back on 750-milliliter or 1-liter bottles of Absolut vodka, $3 back on any pitcher or bucket of Budweiser or Bud Light and $3 back on any mixed drink or cocktail featuring 1800 Tequila.

4. Save Your Digital Change

Dana Sitar reviewing apps on phone and laptop at home
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If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself consider starting an investment account through Acorns.

Acorns is an app that automatically rounds up your credit or debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and invests the spare change.

That means if you spend $10.23 at the grocery store, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account. Once you hit $5, Acorns will automatically invest it.

The idea is you won’t miss the digital pocket change, and the automatic savings stack up faster than you’d think. Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar was able to save at a rate of $420 a year with the app!

Acorns will give Penny Hoarders a $5 bonus for signing up and average interest earning is around 7%.

Passive income!

5. Make Extra Money While You Watch TV

man drinking beer on couch with dog
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

For those times you choose the frugal route and stay in for the night, why not cash in on your free time? Survey sites aren’t the fastest way to earn money, but they’re a great way to build a little savings while you veg out.

Here are some of our favorites:

  • MyPoints: This platform lets you earn gift cards for taking polls, answering surveys and other things you do online — a great way to cash in on long lines or an endless commute. You’ll earn a $5 bonus when you complete your first five surveys.
  • InboxDollars offers several short, daily surveys you can take. If you take all of them each day, you could earn an extra $730 a year — not too bad.

6. Play the Slots — and Earn More Interest Than at Your Bank

woman using phone at casino
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Are you more of the “sit at home and play video games” type of person but you’re making yourself read this because you’re determined to get this adulting thing down?

The folks who created Long Game have you covered with a game that’s fun and helps you achieve your financial goals.  

As you save and accomplish missions you’ll earn coins to play mini games for cash prizes! We’re talking the classics, like slot machines, scratch-offs and spin-to-win wheels.

Penny Hoarder Carson Kohler uses Long Game to save money. Every two weeks, it sneaks $5 out of her bank account and rewards her with coins.

In two months, she’s saved $35.70, just by playing games on her phone. Plus, her winnings amount to a gain of about 2% — way higher than interest on any other savings account she has.

Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 points, so you can start playing while you wait for payday.

7. Optimize Your Credit Card Use

Man and woman at the store, swiping a credit card
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If you’re not using a rewards credit card for everyday purchases, you’re missing out on free money.

You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.

Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, groceries), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.

There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire.

Get signed up — and 0% intro APR for 15 months — here.

*The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.

8. Let a Robot Lower Your Monthly Bills

guy lying on carpet and reading tax documents while his girlfriend listening to him and using laptop
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We negotiate prices on cars and weird lamps at yard sales, but did you know you can negotiate your utility bills?

You don’t have to have mad negotiating skills, either. Trim is a financial assistant that lives in Facebook Messenger or your text messages and automatically takes care of negotiating for you.

Once you’re connected, you’ll be able to access a dashboard within your Messenger or text conversation with Trim. For example, you’ll see options to:

  • Negotiate your cable and internet bill down to a lower price.
  • View your spending habits.
  • Sift through your subscription services to cancel the ones you forgot about or don’t need (about that gym membership…).

Once you knock your bill payments down, put the money you saved toward paying off debts.

9. Find Your Financial Happy Place

Businessman text messaging on cell phone
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They say money can’t buy happiness. And sure, that’s true. Even we can concede that.

But shouldn’t you get the most happiness you can from your money?

There are plenty of apps on the market that will try to help you, but they might leave you feeling frustrated and hopeless at the end of the month. It’s tough giving up every bit of happiness to stick to the budget a robot created for you.

That’s where Joy can help. It’s a free iPhone app that’ll help you save and spend money in a way that doesn’t compromise your happiness.

It will help you figure out the art of giving and taking. For example, if cutting out that morning latte is going to cause you to pull your hair out by noon, don’t do it. Joy’s personalized money coach will help you find ways to save elsewhere.

Hey, no judgements here. Without coffee, we’d lose our minds by 10 a.m.

10. Start Investing Like a Pro — and Get a $5 Bonus

Money from tips and clients is handled by Cat Keenam in Tampa, Fla
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

It’s no brilliant secret that investing can be a smart way to make money.

Sometimes, though, it feels restricted to a few wealthy elite.

But Stash is different. This app lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000. Plus, Penny Hoarders will get a $5 bonus to get started.

Stash curates investments from professional fund managers and investors and lets you choose where to put your money.

But it leaves the complicated investment terms out of it. You just choose from a set of simple portfolios reflecting your beliefs, interests and goals.

11. Get Refunds for Your Impulse Purchases

woman out shopping in the city
PeopleImages/Getty Images

We’re not saying you have to put a freeze on spending altogether. (Unless that’s your thing.) Instead, we’ve got a smart way to reclaim some of that money you might regret spending.

Our secret weapon here is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It's free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email archives for any receipts.

If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund anytime there’s a price drop.

12. Sell Your Extra Stuff

Ryan Deitrich and his girlfriend Kelsey Swagler bought a vintage sailboat 10 months ago, and they’ve been living on it for the past seven.
Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

To pay off their debt and live aboard a sailboat, Ryan Deitrich and Kelsey Swagler sold clothes, shoes, furniture and other items they didn’t use. They estimate they made at least $5,000.

“We re-listed a paper-towel holder four times on OfferUp just to get $1,” Ryan said.

You probably have things sitting around you don’t need. If you don’t, read a few books about minimalism and get back to us.

Selling your old stuff could give you an influx of cash to make bigger payments on your debt.

Here are some of our favorite websites to sell anything in your house:

  • Letgo: You can sell almost anything on this app.
  • Decluttr: This site will pay you for your old CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays, video games, gaming consoles and other electronics. (Plus, enter FREE5 at checkout to get an extra $5 for your trade-in!)

13. Pay off Debt While You Shop

Kristy Gaunt shops at Trader Joe's in St. Petersburg, Florida
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

An app called Qoins can help you get debt-free without really thinking about it.

Qoins rounds up each purchase you make to the nearest dollar. The app tracks the roundups and makes withdrawals in about $5 intervals that it automatically pays toward a debt account of your choice each month.

How it works:

  1. Add your lender (the account you want to pay off).
  2. Connect your checking or other bank account.
  3. Start saving and automatically paying down your debt.

Users report saving an average $50 a month to put toward their debts. Once you sign up, Qoins waits a month before making a deposit on a debt account so you have some extra time to save.

Even better: If you download the app now, you’ll get your first month free. It’s $1.99 a month after that — but that’s worth the piece of mind, right?

14. Find Free Entertainment

Colorful image of a few bowling balls in a row and two men are taking their balls to throw
FluxFactory/Getty Images

Let’s face it: Having fun can cost a lot of money. You could easily drop thousands on entertainment each year if you had the cash to spare.

When you don’t have the cash, you can still have fun.

Even better, you might be able to get paid to enjoy movies, bowling, amusement parks, water parks, weekend getaways and more.

You can do it through mystery shopping. Here’s a list of our favorite companies to get you started.

Bonus: Manage Your Credit Card Payments in One Place

Stack of multicolored credit cards close-up view with selective focus.
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Carrying more than one credit card balance can feel a bit like herding cats. Just when you think you have one under control, you realize you’ve let a different one slip away.

High interest rates and late fees can make it feel like you’ll never get those bills under control.

That’s where Tally comes in. It’s a simple app that lets you store and manage your credit card payments in one place, optimizing the amounts and times.

Simply download the iOS app, scan in your credit cards, and if you qualify, Tally will give you a line of credit with an interest rate between 7.9% and 19.9%* and use the lower interest rate to make managing your payments easy.

No more missed payments. Lower interest rates. All in one place. And don’t worry, Tally uses bank-level security, so your information is safe.

Tally is currently available in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

*Your APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will depend on your credit history and varies with the market based on Prime Rate. Accurate as of July 2018.

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